X Rebirth Review: Sucking Vacuum

In our last look at Egosoft’s troubled launch of X Rebirth, we reported that we had been effectively unable to review the game due to a combination of crippling performance problems (single-figure framerates on our review machine, which stood in excess of the developers own recommended hardware) and bugs. Thankfully, due to a combination of official patches and suggested tweaks on various forums (we got the most mileage out of forcing VSync off in our video card settings panel), we’ve been able to run the game at a playable enough rate. While we’ve only just scratched the surface of what seems to be an extensive sandbox, given the issues that plague the game, we have dug deep enough to pass judgement, and so we present our findings.

X Rebirth
Platform: PC (Reviewed)
Developer: Egosoft
Publisher: Egosoft (Digital) Deep Silver (Retail)
Release Date: Nov. 15, 2013
MSRP: $49.99/£39.99/€49.99
Available: Steam

For those fashionably late to the party, German studio Egosoft has been keeping the otherwise dormant space combat/trading/exploration sandbox genre ticking over since 1999 with the release of the original X: Beyond The Frontier, leading all the way up to the present day with X3 and its many re-releases and expansions. Essentially, they’ve been building upon the foundations set down by PC classics such as Elite and Freelancer, casting the player as a futuristic combat pilot-turned-entrepreneur – a jack of all cosmic trades, if you will. From your cockpit, you explore space, fight enemies, take on missions, trade goods between stations and upgrade your craft in first-person, realtime format.

The X series in particular is praised and skewered in equal measures for its overwhelming depth and complexity, shackled to an infamously complex and inaccessible user interface. While the core gameplay of flying around, shooting and trading is there, it expands to running merchant empires, establishing your own space stations, leading fleets and fighting wars all from the comfort of your personal ship. Over the course of the series, the X games almost play like a singleplayer take on Eve Online’s enormous capitalist sandbox, letting truly dedicated players carve out their own corner of the galaxy if they’ve the patience to learn the often-convoluted subtleties of the game.

Each successive release after X2: The Threat has built higher and higher atop an increasingly creaky engine, resulting in performance problems and bugs aplenty. Egosoft’s goal for X Rebirth was to provide a new starting point: a simpler, more accessible game that people can pick up and learn at their own pace, and an interface that’s accessible enough to map onto a widely available gamepad. It’s a lofty goal, but surely with almost 15 years of experience, it should be easy to identify what features are needless clutter, and which are core to the experience, right?

Apparently not. What would have been a fresh start for the franchise has been rushed out, as buggy and unpolished as any of its predecessors, but also built atop a fresh foundation of strange, mismatched ideas and half-baked concepts.

Most visible of all the changes is a new, prettier universe. It can’t be denied that the game looks gorgeous when every slider is cranked to full, but even high-end PCs are unlikely to see above 30fps in that case.

The smaller, denser universe of Rebirth plays host to a great number of city-like station complexes, with lanes of traffic, police patrols and massive advertising screens spread far and wide. It’s clearly inspired by Blade Runner, but it has a few of its own little visual twists, and quite a few animated details, such as the spraying machinery actually working on wheat farms. However, there’s not a huge amount to differentiate each station, so you might get a creeping sense of deja vu as you explore further afield.

That feeling extends to the biggest feature added to the usual range of spaceflight, combat, trading and profiteering. New to Rebirth is the ability to land your ship and use standard FPS controls to wander around both inside your craft and on the various stations you’ll be visiting. Unfortunately, there’s little of interest aboard your ship.

Outside, you’ll find that almost every part of every station is copy-pasted from the same handful of prefabricated building pieces, and populated with a cast of completely stationary NPCs. Those characters share the same few voices and have only a few dozen lines between them, and they often look ferociously ugly in addition to animating stiffly and (occasionally) glitching, to boot. There are also random boxes of loot scattered around every interior area, seemingly trying to entice players to explore and scavenge, but there’s nothing of any real value to be found.

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17 Comments on X Rebirth Review: Sucking Vacuum

Niserox

On November 20, 2013 at 4:27 pm

I think that the one good thing about the game sucking so bad is that it makes people more interested in Star Citizen.

The X games have always had buggy starts or issues, but this game REALLY let it all go. People with titans and i7s are barely breaking 35 FPS and the graphics options do almost nothing. I think someone said that the first girl you meet (can’t remember he name), her cleavage is actually just a texture, there’s no actual 3d rendering. Idk if thats true or not, but we live in 2013 (2014 in a month). We can handle some god damn 3d rendering.

Overall, after I installed this and played for 3 minutes, I just uninstalled and went back to Albion Prelude.

Star Citizen is the savior we need (fingers crossed – don’t jinx it) and it can’t come soon enough.

ddrulez

On November 20, 2013 at 5:09 pm

The German voice actors are awful tool.
Requested a refund from steam but don’t get one :/

This game is in early beta phase stadium.

Codcat

On November 20, 2013 at 6:27 pm

I really hope this game can be salvaged but I think it’d require an overhaul replacing all the negative points that were listed in this article. Another point that wasn’t mentioned here that I do not like about the game is the no collision damage, you just bounce off of everything and the flying police cars with sirens – oh god its so bad are we meant to be in space or a city on a planet…

Traeon

On November 20, 2013 at 11:36 pm

47% is incredibly generous. I was expecting between 20% and 30%. This game is very, very far from finished.

rickshaw

On November 21, 2013 at 1:11 am

Really Nice review!!
Its been patched again, but I ain’t played it yet, again. I have to wait a few days to get over not playing but for a few brilliant moments. I really like the game! but, it crashed for me too many times during each patching. I ‘m hoping and praying the new patch will let me play. I love the game play of this game!! I love the atmosphere that it gives! I hate to copy and paste and can bare it..yes I can bare it.
Its patched fast, only to be downtrodden by more flaws..
It’s a really a nice dreamy game!
It was rushed into the shop before it was built!! the wheels weren’t on! the brakes never worked! its dam shame it never launched before a proper beta testing. :)
some devs do ave’em ;( money thoughts over reality checks

Loyal

On November 21, 2013 at 3:12 am

I wish someone would pick up the Freespace IP and make an open world game sorta like what WC: Privateer was going for.

Daniel North

On November 21, 2013 at 8:12 am

What a stupid review, the fact you didn’t give this 10-20 is mind blowing, let alone fail to understand not even patches will fix this pile of crap.

Polarity

On November 21, 2013 at 8:37 am

There’s a lot of hard to dismiss evidence (X360 level visual detail inside the stations and ship, numerous references to “xbox360″ and “xbox” inside the game’s code files, a pretty damning timeline complete with Egosoft job postings for someone with console development skills, using an address aware 32bit executable while requiring a 64bit OS, a clearly controller centric ui, the halfassed introduction of pointless minigames to engage the player in tasks they never needed to pay attention to before, etc) that X Rebirth was scheduled to be a console title, and only after Deep Silver and Egosoft realized how absolutely unworkable that goal was did they grudgingly turn back to PC.

I think that at this point, it’s fair to say that consol-itis did claim Rebirth’s soul from the start.

Dominic Tarason

On November 21, 2013 at 9:11 am

The score, I think, reflects that the game is *playable* now, just not enjoyable, and that I do believe that it can be salvaged.

For Egosoft to turn this around, them or their fanbase need to…:

Launch Yisha out an airlock. Along with most of the NPCs, but her first and foremost.
Put Autopilot back in, along with a map UI that human beings can comprehend.
Remove the tailgating minigame from highways and double the base travel speed.
Cut out the ugly HUD (fans have already done this – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUUm6eIfI0o)
Add a radar, filling some of the space in that newly opened up HUD space
Allow the player to quickly and easily automate/delegate hiring staff and assigning trade missions.
Improve the command UI so that the player can micromanage things easier if needs be.
Save walking around on stations/ships for special story sequences, rather than being required.

Honestly, if they did all that, it’d be a good game. Not a great one (and I doubt it ever will be), but I honestly believe there’s potential here for it to be good.

Alan Roberts

On November 21, 2013 at 3:47 pm

47% is WAY too generous

today i tried it again after the latest patch and landed on a station .
at some parts of that slideshow afterburner reported 1fps. (it is now worse for me than it ever was)

my machine is no way top of the line (6core phenom at 3.8 16gb ddr3 gtx660Ti) but it should eat this game up.

it doesn’t even support joysticks.
I have a saitek x52 pro and the game only sees 8 buttons from 24 and 1 hat switch from 3.
the throttle doesn’t work the scroll whells don’t work the sliders don’t work
(what it does see on my Hotas flightsick which would be the perfect controller for such a game equals a 360 controller and a d-pad)

I do own a 360 controller but i have no intention of ever playing a “sim” with a gamepad

Bob

On November 22, 2013 at 4:04 am

I loved X2 and X3 – I sank hours into trading, fighting, and empire building. I still play X3 AP occasionally, because there’s nothing like getting attacked by a bunch of pirates and warping your carrier & destroyer in to wipe them out for their audacity!

All the time X Rebirth was in development I’ve been hoping against hope that they wouldn’t arse it up, but knowing deep down that they would. Hey ho – in 2 years, with lots of community mods, this might be worth looking at.

Ripped off

On November 22, 2013 at 8:59 am

Warning – to anyone about to purchase this game, I am speaking on behalf of the majority of people who have purchased this game – do not buy it- Please see the following thread, which links responses from devs etc. I hope to save potential new buyers a lot of pain.

http://steamcommunity.com/app/2870/discussions/0/648811852746554801/?tscn=1385091770#p1

Also, metacritic

http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/x-rebirth

NLS

On November 25, 2013 at 12:39 pm

47/100?
You are very generous.
I don’t even care about the bugs because as you said they have a reputation of eventually fixing them (in the next few months or 1-2 years… although people that bought the game paid for it NOW)… What I am actually furious (because I really wanted to like this game), is that it is FUNDAMENTALLY broken. Many many design decisions (that won’t be patched, they are not bugs… will be there until Egosoft closes down or they release whatever follows X-Rebirth) are soooooooooooooo wrong. It’s like they learned nothing, nothing at all by making all these space games all these years.
Unbelievable. This game is almost insulting (actually definitely insulting for pre-order people).

RGT

On November 25, 2013 at 11:28 pm

The Console complain is WAY deeper than the controller issue.

Its the fact that the game files show hundreds of code lines for Xbox shaders, something no PC game needs whatsoever.

Then comes the fact Egosoft specifically was looking for coders with console experience.

THAT is why we are feeling this might be a failed console game that got ported to the PC to save it albeit slightly.

Arseny

On November 27, 2013 at 12:35 pm

the part about consoles breaking PC gaming does make sense though. Consoles have obviously larger profit margins and less piracy, so they are the obvious first choice. At the same time, they offer huge limitations which don’t exist on PC, and we see it in maaany newer games that they are actually dumbed down a lot, just so that they can run on consoles. Furthermore, the last decade or so saw huuuge increases in graphics quality etc., but hardly any increases in sophistication of gameplay

RedLeader6

On November 27, 2013 at 7:13 pm

I hate to be cruel, especially in these times, when games released for the PC are few and far between, let alone just really good games.
We just don’t have what it used to be in the 90s. There are genres gone near extinct, such as simulators and space games. Do not bring up Mass Effect, because that’s more like Jersey Shore in space, it has nothing to do with being a spaceship-trader-galaxy discoverer.
So anyway, as I said, I hate to be cruel, but it’s time to make an example and Egosoft must have to go. Egosoft isn’t a giant company, but I wouldn’t mind sacrificing them in order to make a statement.
You just can’t get away with horrendous games, just because you were making it for the XBOX and getting rejected and throw it at the PC gamers in alpha stage (because that’s what’s going on).
I want the company to sink now and die and unfortunately it isn’t going to be EA, but it should send a clear message for everyone else.

Valekin

On December 2, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Bah, I like this game despite the flaws. They should have never let it out with so much bugs, but the company I am sure will fix it. They are known to support their games a long time and even add free content. Past x games, which fans claim to love , were basically panned on their release as well. The trouble with most of these reviews is that reviewers probably got no more than six hours in – not enough to get into any depth in this game type of game whatsoever, but enough to see the obvious flaws and complain about user interface issues. There is enough CoD type games on the market – I want this one to work.